Casper City Council Grapples To Balance Budget
The Casper City Council on Tuesday discussed the finer points of a proposed budget for the 2019 fiscal year that begins July 1.
It's not easy, but the circumstances are far better than they were a year ago when the city had to borrow $4.5 million from its reserves to balance its General Fund budget, City Manager Carter Napier said after a more than three-hour work session.
"Generally speaking, it's a $45 million budget compared to a $44 million expenditure agenda," Napier said.
"If we were to use those same numbers (as in 2017) we would be talking about a $40 million budget compared to, let's say, a $45 million expenditure agenda, which would indicate a $4 to $5 million deficit position," he said. "And we are not in a deficit position with what's being proposed tonight."
The General Fund relies largely on sales and use taxes, which in turn rely largely on the boom-and-bust, energy-driven commodities industries, Napier and several council members said.
When sales tax revenues dropped sharply a couple years ago, the city scrambled to make ends meet by borrowing about a third of its reserves. If the borrowing had continued at that pace, the city's reserves would have dropped to zero by 2020.
As it is now, the reserves amount to about $12.6 million, which would sustain the city for 102 days if all funding sources immediately evaporated. Napier told the council he would like to see that rise to a 120-day reserve.
A lot of the discussion Tuesday concerned the Natrona County School District's request for two more school resource officers -- police officers who are devoted to school security.
The city council was willing to split the cost with the school district, according to the proposed budget.
Napier and the council also were concerned how to adequately compensate employees and reward those who perform well.
Some of those details will be worked out when the council resumes its work session at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.